Baseball blogging: Cabrera’s whopper

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Baseball blogging: Cabrera’s whopper

How should we think about Miguel Cabrera’s huge deal - $292 million over 10 years?

First of all, don’t worry that it will destroy baseball. As Think Progress’s Travis Waldron points out, revenues are going up a lot faster than salaries right now. This deal is going to cost the teams some money (as almost everyone said, Mike Trout is certainly celebrating), but they have plenty.

From the perspective of the Tigers, though, isn’t it fairly crazy?

I’d put it this way: Ordinarily, we should think of player contracts not as spending, but as investments. A high-salary player will add wins to the team, and each win translates into higher revenues. Especially those wins that raise a team from an 85-win also-ran to a World Series champion. So no matter how eye-popping the numbers look now, it’s plausible that huge contracts can actually make money for the team. Indeed, it’s possible that such contracts make sense even if they contain out-year payments long after the star fades - as long as they’re big enough winners in the short term.

Still, I agree with pretty much everyone that there’s just no way that this particular contract “works” down the road. Cabrera is an awfully good hitter, but between age, health and a fairly narrow skill set (hitting), he’s just not going to be a $30 million ballplayer for long.

On the other hand, Christina Kahrl and others argue that this could simply be hobby spending, not investment, from Tigers owner Mike Ilitch. If he’s just tossing $100 million or so into the pot just because he wants to see a winner .?.?. well, more power to him, right?

I think so. As long as the Tigers treat it as hobby spending, not as investment. Which means committing to spending more money in the future, as if this contract doesn’t exist.

It will be a long-term disaster if the Tigers use this contract as an excuse for having a terrible team five years from now. Otherwise? It’s only money.

By Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg View columnist

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